In a city where onion domes and Soviet-era monoliths bespeak a long, varied, and storied past, it's easy to forget that the dining scene is relatively new, having emerged with democratization in 1991. Now, nearly twenty-five years later, the Moscow restaurant scene is still going through growing pains and has yet to find its pace. This is good news for adventurous diners. You might still find yourself being served by pantaloon-and-ruffled bedecked "serfs" beneath glittering chandeliers in one of the showy, re-created settings that arose in the post-Soviet era—and that even a tsar would find to be over the top.
But many restaurants now approach their food sensibly and seriously. A new crop of chefs is serving traditional Russian fare, often giving it some innovative twists. One European cuisine to invade the city anew is Italian, and scores of dark-haired chefs from the Mediterranean are braving the cold to bring Muscovites minestrone and carbonara. Other ethnic restaurants have long since arrived as well, and you can sample Tibetan, Indian, Chinese, Latin American, or Turkish cuisine any night of the week.
One welcome, long-standing Russian tradition that remains in place is a slow-paced approach to a meal. It's common for people to linger at their tables long after finishing dessert, and you're almost never handed the bill until you ask for it. Keep in mind that chef turnover is high in Moscow, which means restaurants can change quickly—and that there's always a new culinary experience to be had in this ever-evolving city.